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Half of the calories a baby consumes come from fat. Fat that provides energy and also supports the growth of the brain. A high percentage of this fat es an Omega-3 fatty acid called DHA. It starts accumulating during the third trimester and keeps accumulating until at least until the baby is 2 years old. DHA seems to play a vital role in the development of the visual system as well.
There are many different fatty acids found in nature, however. Two fatty acids in particular are called "essential fatty acids," because the human body can't make them and must therefore get them through the diet. These are linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid, and they are found in many types of plant-seed oils. From these two fatty acids, which chemists describe as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), the body can assemble long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (called LCPUFAs) such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA). Researchers believe that an infant's body, however, does not convert PUFAs into DHA very effectively or in sufficient quantity to meet the needs of the infant's rapidly growing brain.
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